#DressDownFriday Competition with The Green Flamingo, Co.!

The #DressDownFriday campaign has been running for 10 weeks now, and I’m so thrilled that it’s struck a chord with so many parents, all around the world.

After a successful first competition with Zac & Bella, I’m really excited that The Green Flamingo, Co. will be offering a prize for another lucky ‘Friday Fashionista’.

The Green Flamingo, Co. specialise in cool, gender-neutral designs and colours for their t-shirts and onesies. Over the next month, anyone who posts a picture in support of #DressDownFriday will be entered into the draw (just make sure you like both of our pages on either Facebook or Instagram).

The winner will get their choice of size and colour of this super-fun shirt, below. Not a bad deal for simply helping to tackle gender stereotypes, eh!?!

The Green Flamingo, Co. was set up by Jenilee & Jessica, two enterprising mamas, originally from Massachusetts. I’m always keen to support and champion innovative and impressive mothers, so I asked co-owner Jessica a few questions about how they went from friends to parents to business-owners.

Where did you two meet?

Jennilee and I have been best friends for over 20 years. We grew up in the same town in Massachusetts.  In addition to our friendship, we also were cheerleaders together through middle school, high school, and some of college. We have been friends through all of life’s ups and downs, marriage, children, moves, joy and sorrow.  We feel very lucky to know we have each other’s backs, always.

Tell us about your families…

Jennilee and her husband have two boys, Lyndon is almost six years old and Sawyer is almost four. My husband and I have four kiddos, Alexis is fourteen, Ally is twelve, Jax is four, and Makena is two. We currently live in Austin, Texas.

What made you two want to set up a kids’ clothing brand with an emphasis on gender-neutrality?

While on our yearly weekend getaway to Martha’s Vineyard (off the coast of Cape Cod) last year, Jennilee and I went searching for a flamingo t-shirt for her son Lyndon’s birthday gift.  Flamingos were and still are Lyndon’s favourite animal.  We could not find a single one made for a boy.  And although Jennilee has no issue with putting her son in pink, the shirts were specifically geared towards girls, with ruffles and glitter.

We decided right then that we should make one for him!  We thought it was so unfair that this little guy couldn’t wear his favourite animal simply because mainstream clothing companies thought that it was “girly”.

From here, The Green Flamingo, Co. was born!  Providing children and adults with designs that either gender can wear proudly and without judgment has become our mission.

What is your design process?

We both hand draw our designs and then digitize the images. They are then printed just for the customer who ordered it.  We offer many sizes and a rainbow of colours so that ANY child and/or adult can find exactly what they like.  There is no pink just for girls or blue just for boys at The Green Flamingo, Co.  We create designs that encourage each and every person to express themselves exactly as they see fit.

Why have you chosen to support the #DressDownFriday campaign?

When we came across the #DressDownFriday campaign we were thrilled! Not only because this is exactly what our company is about but also because it is taking a step forward to get the word out about how limiting and ridged, gender stereotypes can be.  Bringing attention to the fact that children should be children, not just boys, and girls, is vitally important to them growing up with respect and non-judgment for one another. Differences between the genders starts young and in our opinion, starts with their clothes. We are overjoyed to be a part of a mission to tackle this!

In Defence of the Mamas Enjoying a Bit of Tom Hardy

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about Cbeebies’ Bedtime Story reader and all-round bad-boy-beefcake, Tom Hardy.

HOLLYWOOD – OCTOBER 30: Actor Tom Hardy attends “Variety’s 10 Actors To Watch” event at The Roosevelt Hotel on October 30, 2009 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by David Livingston/WireImage)

Loads of parents are thrilled at what they perceive to be an inspired choice by the BBC for Tom to lend his dulcet tones to a children’s classic. Others have criticised the ovary-exploding mass-hysteria, saying it represents a double standard in society where it’s socially acceptable for women to gawp at men, but it’s frowned upon when it’s the other way around.

People with this latter point of view, in my opinion, are kind of missing the point.

The CBeebies producers didn’t ask Tom to dress provocatively, or lounge on a bed, or nonchalantly step out of a shower soaking wet. They have asked an A-list Hollywood actor with mass-appeal to sit on a chair and read a bedtime story.

Of course, the producers rightly knew Tom Hardy would likely strike a chord with mum viewers, but the reaction mums have had to the choice of reader has been entirely their own decision. In a way isn’t that the definition of female empowerment? Surely denying mums their reaction to seeing Tom Hardy on TV after they’ve spent all day scraping Weetabix off the radiators whilst trying to placate a perennially screaming infant, is being a little bit harsh?

At the end of the day, (well, at 6.50pm to be precise), it’s a bit of fun, it’s tongue in cheek, and it’s harmless. As far as I’m aware, Tom Hardy didn’t run from the studio crying that he’d been degraded and abused.

To react negatively to all the ‘Hardy furore’ suggests these people are taking the humorous responses from mums literally. Are they genuinely concerned that mums are ‘putting their kids to bed early to watch Bedtime Story alone’? Does this mean they are suggesting that CBeebies is turning the Bedtime Hour into Channel 5 soft porn??? In my opinion, this is just another one of those societal double-standards where it’s OK for guys to joke about ‘the spank bank’, but it’s met with disgust when women joke about the same thing.

And let’s face it, how many times every day are women the victims in the ever-present, daily bombardment of female scrutiny? Can’t we let the mums have Tom Hardy? After a day of running around after a crazy toddler with no adult interaction to keep you sane, is that too much to ask? I think not.

Pre-baby / Post-Baby – A Poem of Comparison for Mother’s Day

Gin & Tonic / Nightly colic

Designer bags / under-eye bags

Drink nothing under 40 proof / Every room is Baby-proof

Travel the world / Join Slimming World

Stay up late / Stay up ‘til 8

Lazing in the sun / Frantic school-run

All night rave / No time to shave

Socialising / Sterilising

Foreplay / Soft play

Moisturise / Poked in the eyes

Express manicure / Express breastmilk

Spontaneity / Upsy Daisy

Beauty regimen / Baby Calprofen

Festivals in the rain / Staying home to potty train

Working on my core / Working on my pelvic floor

Boyfriend troubles / Mummy cuddles

Housemates from Hell / That new baby smell

Miniskirts and frocks / Tiny baby socks

Having a flatter tummy / Biggest smiles for Mummy

The daily commuter shove / Unconditional love

‘Mum’s Night Out’ with Unmumsy Mum & Giovanna Fletcher

Like a true fan-girl, when Unmumsy Mum & Giovanna Fletcher announced a joint book event, I snapped up my ticket like a 13-year old One Directioner.

I hadn’t bothered to ask any of my mates if they fancied going, which in retrospect was probably a bad idea. When I arrived at the Barbican, it was wall-to-wall with young mum friends, drinking prosecco and enjoying their well-earned night away from the kids.

I was genuinely the only person I could see who had decided to ‘go stag’ to this event. It reminded me of those early days of being a new mum, when you’d walk into a baby class or breastfeeding support group for the first time, and you felt like the loneliest person in the room.

Having made some failed attempts to sidle up to a few confused-looking groups, (and who could blame them – who wants to babysit a lost mum when you’re trying to catch up with your mates!) I took my seat in the auditorium and did what any self-respecting loner would do – I played Candy Crush on my phone.

All of this was quickly forgotten though, when Giovanna, Unmumsy Mum aka Sarah Turner, and host Bryony Gordon took to the stage.

Bryony was an inspired choice for host. Her fun, relaxed and easy stage demeanour meant that the conversation flowed naturally and never felt stilted. She had everyone laughing from the outset by making the sign-language interpreter sign ‘vagina’ and ‘sex’ over and over again.

The conversation began with a discussion about parental judgement. Sarah said she dislikes the idea that the media want her to be the poster woman for the ‘bad momma’, when she’s she’s a good, ‘real’ straight-talking mum.

They discussed the pressure to ‘get your old body back’ after pregnancy and how this is an absurd notion – you don’t ‘lose’ your body when you’re pregnant – it’s still very much ever-present!

There were lots of chuckles around how to spice things up in the bedroom after having a baby. Gi stayed very tight-lipped but Sarah said she considers removing her pyjama top as ‘spicing it up’ nowadays.

Things got quite raw when Giovanna opened up about her fertility issues and miscarriage. It was refreshing to listen to someone who is always in the media spotlight, put themselves out there about such an emotive and private subject. She felt empowered to talk about it openly after seeing other mothers do this online, and I’m sure her voice on this subject will only give strength to others going through the heartbreak of losing a child.

Bryony skilfully and sensitively led the conversation on to boobs and breastfeeding. Giovanna said that she stopped breastfeeding Buddy this week, and that her boobs are like rocks. Sarah talked about how hard breastfeeding was in the early days, and how she’d regularly ask herself ‘what the fuck am I doing???’

On the topic of oversharing, Sarah also cringed through a story about the time she blogged about her ‘fit bathroom tiler’ and he then he started following her on twitter! I’ll have to give that a go myself!!!

At the end of the conversation, there was a Q&A section, and I was able to ask Giovanna and Sarah about how they juggled childcare and working from home, as this is something I still struggle to get right.

I told them about the time Emily was on my lap at my desk and she inadvertently sent a direct message on my laptop to a business contact that was just a series of dollar bill symbols. Luckily, both Gi and Sarah found this amusing and all-too relatable, and both agreed that similar things had happened to them when working from home.

Giovanna said, ‘I try not to work past 10 so that me and Tom can have a glass of wine and watch some Netflix together’, at which point Sarah asked if that meant ‘Netflix and Chill’, which was met by major blushes from Giovanna!

Sarah then added that at the time they were going through the potty-training process with her son, she was on an important conference call to discuss the first book. She had to drop the phone and the bemused publishers mid-call, as her boy had taken a shit in the DVD cupboard! She made her apologies so that she could clean the poo off the Despicable Me 2 DVD. She added, ‘I guess that gives you an indication of what he thought about the movie!’

It was so reassuring (and hilarious!) to hear that they both experience the same trials with their kids when they’re trying to work – and it kind of makes the fact that these two have written a handful of books between them whilst raising babies all the more impressive!

I’m so glad I made the decision to go last night. Despite being Billy No Mates for a big chunk of the night, it was so lovely to meet Giovanna and Sarah and talk to them briefly about working and mothering. The whole experience has helped me refocus and it’s given me a new enthusiasm for my own blog-writing.

So many parts of the conversation last night really struck a chord with me. Especially what Sarah’s son did to Despicable Me 2 – I think that movie is shit too.

Seven Things All Parents Know to be True About Reading to Their Toddler

Before you have a baby, the notion of reading them a bedtime story as they lay curled on your lap is one of the most appealing images of parenthood. I spent ages browsing bookshops when I was pregnant to find beautifully-illustrated baby books with inspirational and empowering sub-texts. Fast forward two years and guess what my daughter’s favourite book is? Well it’s a toss-up between a Peppa Pig story about a goldfish, or the Dominos Pizza menu. The closest thing you get to a sub-text in that is the calorie content of a Mighty Meaty.

Like it or not, your toddler will find their own way to enjoy books, and it’s likely to be nothing like how you imagined. Here are seven things all parents know to be true about reading with their toddlers:

  1. You rarely get past page three before another book is thrust under your nose. Just when your interest is piqued and you want to know who you’re about to spy next in Each Peach Pear Plum, you’re Peepo-ing your way through another book.
  2. If you do manage to get to the end of a book, the chances are you’ve had to read it with the speed of a terms and conditions segment in a car finance ad. Toddlers race through the pages like they’re dying to find out what happens at the end of a gripping whodunit.
  3. No matter what well-loved and critically-acclaimed books you try to read to them, your toddler will always prefer the cheap flashy-coloured Blaze & the Monster Machines book that you flung in the trolley for them at the supermarket to keep them quiet.
  4. Toddler books make you realise how effed-up nursery rhymes and fairy tales really are. Why do we think it’s OK to tell toddlers about a little girl that is nearly eaten by a wolf dressed as her grandmother? That’s some crazy Norman Bates shit right there! Night night, little one! Let me tell you about a boy and a girl who are forced into an oven by an old lady witch! Sweet dreams!
  5. Lift the flap books lose some of their mystique and ability to grab the reader, when every single flap has been ripped out of the book by an over-zealous toddler.
  6. And don’t even start with pop-up books. After a few rounds with an aggressive pre-schooler, each page quickly resembles a scene from apocalypse now; teddy bear limbs torn off and flailing about once they’ve been grabbed by a chubby little hand.
  7. There is no such thing as ‘one’ bedtime story, toddlers will drag out bedtime in any way possible. So when you’ve passed out on the nursery floor with Dear Zoo draped over your face at 7.30pm, you can assume your toddler will still be busily flinging books from the bookcase – and depending on how well you’ve hidden it – smearing all the children’s classics with a liberal splodge of Sudocrem.

Despite replaying all of these scenarios every night, over and over again, it’s still got to be one of my favourite parts of the day. And not entirely because I know I won’t see the toddler again for 10 hours or so.

International Women’s Day – why the naysayers need to put up or shut up

Every year when this day rolls around, I do my best to spread the message and share my own stories of the women that inspire me. And also every year, I am confronted by a tirade of online keyboard-warriors who say that International Women’s Day is a complete waste of time, or that it does more harm than good.

This really gets on my much-maligned tits. Can’t we have one frickin’ day to celebrate females? Isn’t it enough that every other day in the year is unofficially International Men’s Day? Does it really threaten people that much to turn the focus of conversation on to women for five minutes???

I’m always quick to challenge these people on this point of view. I usually use the line that if there was true equality, the day would cease to exist. If they can’t stand the idea of IWD, they should focus their efforts on completely eliminating it by challenging gender inequality in every way possible.

Obviously, anyone that takes exception to this day isn’t gonna do squat to support equality. The carousel of fragile male ego and un-checked privilege continues to go around year after year, brought to a head every 8th March when someone dares to speak up and celebrate women.

People say ‘what difference is one day going to do?’ Seismic political and economical shifts towards equality may not be achieved in one day. But this opportunity to focus on the status of women around the world is a hugely important process to determine what needs to change. The opportunity to celebrate inspiring women on this day is also the best way to empower and embolden women to challenge the status-quo.

Some women say ‘I don’t need feminism or IWD because I’ve always managed to thrive in a male dominated world.’ Good for you. Really. But does that mean that every woman is able to thrive in this way, and that every woman has had the chances you have had? The answer is a resolute ‘of-course-bloody-not’. It’s therefore a totally insular and irrelevant argument.

Others say, ‘Nobody forced them to take time off from work to focus on a family. They made a choice to be behind professionally and yet they moan every IWD about inequality.’ But this is a ‘choice’ that men never have to face and therefore never feel the impact of it, and it’s a ‘choice’ many millions of women around the world, because of social and economical reasons, never even get the chance to make.


The fact is, we swallow these same arguments that are regurgitated like a misogynistic Groundhog Day, over and over again. Each year, there is about as much noise criticising IWD as there are people celebrating it. And 2017 is the year that this has to stop.

The future of women’s rights looks so incredibly bleak right now. And the proof of this is undeniable. Thanks to the current global political set-up, we’ve taken a huge leap backwards when it comes to the empowerment of women.

This International Women’s Day is therefore more crucial than ever. There’s just too much at stake for us not to challenge inequality wherever we see it.

The next time someone rolls their eyes when you want to make a point about equality, remember:

  • Women make up half the world’s population, and yet represent 70% of the world’s poor
  • Every day, 39,000 girls are forced into early marriage
  • Fewer women run top companies than men named John
  • 4% is the median full time pay gap between men and women in the UK. For every £1 earned by a man, a woman earns 81p
  • 1 in 10 women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace
  • 72% of women feel conflicted in their ability to balance family with career

And yet…

  • Companies with strong female leadership perform better than those that do not
  • Unleashing the full potential of women in the workplace in the UK could be worth £23 billion to the Exchequer

Inequality and female discrimination is real and it happens every day, everywhere. To some women, it might just be a casually sexist remark as they walk down the street, to others it is life-threatening. Ignoring the need for a day for women is turning your back on half of the world’s population. It’s irresponsible and it’s dangerous. Because of this, I will stand up for International Women’s Day every time it is derided. I will celebrate inspiring women. And I will use this day to renew my focus in challenging inequality.

One day of the year might not change the world overnight, but it only takes one person emboldened, encouraged and inspired on this day, to change the world completely.

#DressDownFriday competition. WIN a gorgeous romper!

Want to win a gorgeous gender-neutral romper for your little one? Simply join in with #DressDownFriday on social media!

The lovely people at Zac & Bella have offered up one of their gorgeous designs to one lucky ‘Dress Down Friday Fashionista’.

Zac & Bella was established by London College of Fashion graduate Hayley McGhan in 2016. They are an independent handmade clothing brand specialising in gender-neutral baby leggings, harem pants & matching accessories in sizes 0-6 years.

Post a picture of your little one in ‘Dress Down Friday Threads’ on facebook, twitter or Instagram on a Friday between 10th and 31st March. Make sure you like and follow Musing Mum and Zac & Bella on social media and make sure you use the hashtag #DressDownFriday, tagging Zac & Bella & Musing Mum in your picture. You will automatically be entered into the draw and a winner will be picked at random after the 31st March.

Good luck!

Terms & Conditions:

Usual terms & conditions apply. Competition details form part of these terms and conditions. Competition runs from 10th to 31st March on the 10th, 17th, 24th and 31st of March. Entries can be submitted on each Friday of the campaign. Entries are accepted worldwide. To be entered into the draw, entries must post a photo on twitter, Instagram or facebook. They must be posted along with the hashtag #DressDownFriday. Zac & Bella and Musing Mum must be tagged into these photos. Entrants must like the Zac & Bella & Musing Mum Instagram and Facebook pages to be entered into the draw. The winner will be picked at random on the 3rd April. The winner will be contacted via direct message at which point clothes size and delivery address can be shared. Sizes available are from newborn to six years. Postage / delivery is included in the prize. Prize value is £28. The prize is one gender-neutral reversible romper. No cash or other alternatives will be offered. The winner agrees to the use of their name, photograph and disclosure of county of residence and will co-operate with any other reasonable requests relating to any post-winning publicity.

Seven things that TV shows & movies NEVER tell you about giving birth

Before I got pregnant, pretty much all I knew about pregnancy and birth came from TV shows and movies (and that book my mum awkwardly gave me when I was a kid).

Childbirth on-screen seems to follow a tried and tested formula. The labouring woman (or man in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s case in Junior), is almost always in bed with her legs up in stirrups for the entire duration of her labour. There’s usually an amusing attending physician for comic relief, and you can guarantee that thanks to the Hulk-like strength acquired in labour, the birth partner’s hand is squeezed so hard that they need to make a separate trip downstairs to A&E.

In fairness, there are some elements of childbirth that the big screen does an OK job of getting across. We’re used to seeing people in labour for ages (like Rachel in Friends), and we’re also used to seeing babies arrive faster than an Amazon Prime delivery (though I’m not sure how many babies speedily cannon out of vaginas in the back-seat of cars stuck in traffic in real-life).

Of course, I attended a couple of classes and read ‘What to Expect’, but I was conditioned by the traditional on-screen birth scenes that I had watched for years and years. Because of this, even though I knew it wasn’t real, I couldn’t help but visualise it in this way to some degree when it was about to happen to me.

Funnily enough though, there’s a ton of stuff that my many hours’ watching TV and movies didn’t prepare me for when I delivered. Here’s my top seven things that TV and movies NEVER tell you about giving birth.

  1. Car Parking is totally balls at hospitals

In movies, you literally NEVER see the partner effing and jeffing at the pay & display metre in the car pack that’s roughly a mile and a half away from the maternity unit. You never see the husband, in between timing the length of contractions, checking his watch to make sure he doesn’t need to top up the metre so that he doesn’t get a ticket. You also never see a labouring woman hobble through the doors of the hospital alone saying ‘fuck my husband! I’m doing this without him! He insisted on dropping me off and parking up in the long-stay to save a few quid!’

  1. More tearing and stitching than the House of Chanel

Pushing out an epic 9lb-plus baby can cause an almighty foof-rip. When things are fast and furious at the end, let’s just say that the baby doesn’t just ‘Tokyo Drift’ out of you. And being stitched up afterwards stings like a bitch. Movies make out that all women have expanding rubber vaginas that neatly shrink back into place moments after birth. I can’t recall that we saw Phoebe Buffay with a midwife between her legs wielding a needle and thread after she popped out three babies.

  1. Shit happens

Whether the movies want to admit it or not, shit happens. In a way, it’s kind of a blessing if it does, because you spend the next 48 hours post-delivery stressing about how painful it will be to go to the toilet! I’d have loved to have seen a final shot of Katherine Heigl in ‘Knocked Up’, crying with happiness at her first successful post-natal poo. And not because I have a poo fetish or anything. In case you were wondering.

  1. Congratulations, it’s a placenta!

Before I was pregnant, I had no idea that you ‘delivered’ the placenta after the baby. I thought everything was expelled at that one moment in a tidal-wave of pregnancy juices. Of all the TV and movies I have watched, I don’t think I’ve seen one placenta being delivered. One can only assume that what you didn’t see at the end of ‘Nine Months’, was Julianne Moore being rushed back to hospital with heavy bleeding from a retained placenta. Maybe they’ll use that in the highly-anticipated and yet unannounced sequel.

  1. There will be blood

Oh boy, will there be blood. Think Carrie-meets-the-elevator-doors-tidal-wave-of-blood-scene-in-The-Shining level of blood. And it just keeps on coming, days after the birth. Funnily enough though, you never see a pack of maternity pads like a stack of mini lilos sticking out of the hospital bag of any expectant mother on TV.

  1. Did you just pee????

Remember that scene where Phoebe’s waters broke in FRIENDS? Nine times out of ten in the movies, the first sign of labour is an almighty down-pour of amniotic fluid. I completely expected this would be how I’d know I was about to have a baby – like a baby barometer. In reality, my waters broke about 40 minutes before I gave birth, and I didn’t get to have the true TV experience of ruining my favourite pair of shoes with leaking baby fluid.

  1. The. Fuck. Just. Happened.

The biggest fallacy of all when it comes to on-screen births? It’s the peaceful and awe-inspiring look of love that mothers and their partners share with their newborns, moments after delivery. The reality? For me, it was a feeling of numbness, physical and mental numbness. I was completely shell-shocked and struggling to fully come to terms with the fact that I was now, finally, a mum. I’d love to say that as soon as I saw my baby, I was awash with an all-consuming love for her. But the reality was very different. I had to learn to love my new life, and this new person. Having that perfect image in my head, constructed from a lifetime of watching fake birth after birth, only exacerbated the situation.

 

Next time I’m pregnant, even with the benefit of real-life experience, I know I’ll have all those ‘Hollywood labours’ going around in my head. I’ll aim to recreate Brooklyn Decker’s birth in ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ where she sneeze-pushes a baby out. But honestly, I’ll take anything that doesn’t end up being like Kristin Stewart’s birth experience in Twilight: Breaking Dawn.


The Pramshed

A few thoughts on St David’s Day

This morning I packed the baby off to nursery in her little traditional Welsh outfit as they’re having a St David’s Day celebration with the babies today.

It got me thinking about the differences between her upbringing and mine.

As a half-Welsh person who was raised in Yorkshire but now lives back in Wales, I do find it strange that the baby will have a different accent to me, especially when she starts school.

She currently says ‘bucket’ with a Yorkshire accent, and aside from ‘cuppa’ and ‘bastard’, I don’t think there’s a better word to say with a northern twang.

But words like ‘mum’ already have a strong Welsh lilt when she speaks. Nursery rhymes too, especially ones they sing at nursery, sound very Welsh (and unbelievably cute) when she sings them. With a Welsh accent, the word ‘star’ is dragged out so it sounds like ‘staaaaar’, and she’s already picked this up. I can’t wait to hear what she sounds like when she’s older and properly talking. Just as long as she doesn’t sound too much like Nessa.

What will be more strange is when she starts learning Welsh at school. She will have access to a whole new language that her mother and father don’t speak. This really excites me, though she’ll have to ask Google for help with her homework as I’ll be completely useless. I’m already struggling with the bilingual books we were given by the Health Visitor, and at the bilingual ‘bounce and rhyme’ classes, I mumble through incy wincy spider or pretend I’ve got a cough.

I’m quite pleased in a way that the baby’s upbringing and cultural environment will be a little different from my own. I’m looking forward to sharing Yorkshire idioms with her, and of course she’ll grow up knowing Yorkshire Tea is far superior to any other brand. Though I imagine she might find it quite embarrassing growing up with a mother who sounds a bit like Ned Stark.

Why you should never tell someone to ‘smile’

This week when I was filling up the car, a bloke at the petrol pump opposite looked over to me and said, ‘Cheer up, love. It might never happen!’ I was so flustered by his comment that I think I might have laughed back at him to show him I wasn’t always a miserable cow – I was just struggling with the lock on the petrol cap.

Almost immediately afterwards, I was kicking myself at my lame-ass response. I basically obeyed an order from an intrusive stranger. I let him judge me, without a hint of a clue as to who I am and what I might have to frown about, and I chose to please him rather than defend my situation.

Thinking back, this has happened to me on a few occasions. I don’t think I’ve got a particularly severe ‘resting bitch face’, and even if I do, it doesn’t give complete strangers the right to think they can control me, my mood and my actions with one simple command.

Telling a woman to ‘smile’ is patronising and incredibly condescending. For that moment, it reduces her worth to no more than her ability to please the person that demands a smile from her. How incredibly messed up is that, when you really think about it?

When you ask someone to smile, it isn’t really about cheering them up, it’s about you being happy that the world around you looks that way you want it to look. It can be completely unintentional, but off-the-cuff comments like this are casually thrown about every day and women are generally just too damn tired, or embarrassed or scared to disobey or challenge them. I know, I’m bloody one of them!

What is really depressing about all of this is that from birth, we say ‘smile’ to girls all the time. And when we’re not saying it to them, we buy clothes to remind them to smile, just in case they feel sad about something and they drop the happy façade.

I recently walked through the clothes section at my local supermarket to pick up some bits for my daughter, and there were no less than three separate t-shirt designs that ordered girls to ‘smile’. Want to know how many there were in the boys’ section? None. Why is it that we encourage girls to smile and not boys? Why are we still so obsessed with the notion of a passive, smiling female? And why would it be interpreted as a weakness or out of the ordinary for a boy to smile?

If you want people to smile, you need to give them something to smile about. Make more people happy, do more nice things for the people around you. But don’t always expect a smile. A smile needs to be earned, and it’s not yours to demand. We need to spend less time encouraging people to smile, and more time doing ‘smile-worthy’ acts.

Have you ever had a stranger tell you to ‘cheer up’, or ‘smile’? How did it make you feel? I’m genuinely interested in how widespread this is, and how it impacts the people that have experienced it.